Comments 4

How to manage work and prepare for the CAT

With the mountain called the CAT now in sight, most working professionals will be wondering how to mount another challenge to get into the old IIMs.

The biggest obstacle in front working professionals will be juggling a job and prepping for CAT at the same time. Some of you in this situation will have decided to quit your job, hopefully only after having read my post on the same and having understood the implications of quitting.

Those of you who have not contemplated the same might be wondering as to what can be a fool-proof plan to manage both. Most of you will be happy if I gave you a daily to-do list. But managing work and prep require more than having a to-do list. Unless you manage your life, work and energy in totality, even the best to-do list will stay just that — a to-do list. So, this post will take up the whole gamut of things that you will have to execute to ensure that you crack the this year’s CAT.

The most precious commodity is your energy

Most people focus on the fact that they get just a small window of prep time after work and commute. The bigger problem I feel is the limited amount of energy that you have left after a full day’s work.

Since our brains constantly crave rewards for each and everything that we do, the first thing that our brains and bodies want to do after a hard days work — RELAX.

What does this word RELAX usually translate into?

  • BAD posture: lying down or slouching in a way that seems to say I don’t want to give a ****
  • BAD food: something that will make us feel good, heavy and sleepy
  • BAD food for the mind: since the body has been satiated, the mind wants its fix of unending videos and memes and whatnot; with the stomach you know when its full, with videos, can you even say when your mind is full?

After two to three hours of RELAXing, I am sure Time, Speed & Distance will not really seem even distantly inviting. We all know what follows next — a strong decision to wake up early and practice TSD before going to work and a set the alarm with a clenched jaw 🙂 I am sure there is no need to elaborate what happens in the morning.

Revving yourself up in the morning

The first thing to do then do is to manage your energy better right throughout the day so that you don’t really crave the RELAX in the evening. If you can prevent the craving then you don’t need to resist the temptation.

I am not sure if Yoga and Pranayama are the cure-alls they are proclaimed to be but they definitely boost your energy and alertness levels drastically. This is both from personal experience and more so from the experience of my mother, who took it up at my suggestion and now has insane amounts of energy and doesn’t miss a Yoga class for anything (even if her children are visiting).

Given the limited amount of time at your disposal, you can’t possible enroll for a class but you surely can do some basic breathing exercises such as kapabhati and nadishodana pranayama just to rev up the lungs.

You should spend 15 to 20 minutes every day in the morning, after freshening up doing these breathing exercises.

At any time during the day, if you feel sleepy and sluggish you can always rely on straightening your back and taking deep breaths is the surefire way to getting back to alertness.

Resetting your body and mind in the evening

As much as the morning revving up is required, what is even more important is the evening reset. Our first instinct when we get back to our place is to plonk ourselves and start yapping with whoever is at home.

While one can do this it is best if one focusses first on resetting the mind and body to become fresh again.

Take a bath whether you feel like it or not and do another round 10-15 minutes round of breathing exercises.

Just do this every day and you will notice a subtle change in the way you feel physically over a period of time apart from higher energy levels:

  • reduced craving for food, caffeine, alcohol or cigarettes
  • reduced anxiety levels leading to a calmer disposition
  • reduced brain fog and higher alertness

Another really good cure for low alertness and brain fog are Brahmi capsules; whenever I have been short of sleep or feel groggy even after a coffee, a Brahmi capsule does the trick.

Save energy by talking less during the day

One of the big ways we expend a lot of energy without knowing is by talking a lot. If you treat the energy you have within you to be of a finite amount then, you will start conserving the same at various points of time during the day. You have to manage your salary to last the whole month, you have to manage your energy to last the whole day. So talk less and you will save and build up energy reserves leading up to the CAT.

Choose the right slots

It does not matter whether you are a morning person or an evening person, you have to choose the time slot to prep that is least likely to be disrupted due to work.

Whether it is before or after work, choose time-slot that will not be disrupted.

  • If you have flexible timings then choose a slightly skewed time slot, say an 8-4 or, a 11-7, instead of standard 9 to 5 or 10 to 6. This will give a longer undisrupted time-slot
  • If you have to work within fixed timings then ensure that you hit those timings, finish your work and get out.

I know that some of you might be working in projects in which there is absolutely no respite at all. You will be working weekends as well. If I say I have an answer for such case, I will be lying.

Plan for a break around the September-October period

No matter how diligently you prepare on a daily basis. It is necessary that for a brief period the only current that is passing through your nervous system is that of CAT. You need to get magnetized in a particular direction.

So you have to ensure that you have enough leaves and inform your boss in advance to be able to take this break.

What can prevent you from taking this break?

  • Losing leaves for family weddings that you have to attend. If it is not your direct sibling, it is something that can be and has to be avoided.
  • Losing leaves to trips planned by close friends. If a trip with friends is more important than getting into IIM-A then reconsidering your priorities are in order.

Do not take the break in November as it will be too close to the test for you to see the results of your prep.

The ideal break should be about 3 weeks long, even 2 weeks can suffice (I won’t be doing a post on the best stories to make your boss grant you leave).

You have limited time, so use it judiciously

Today, anyone who tries to learn or do anything first googles it. The avalanche of information available from blogs, forums such as Quora and Pagal Guy, to Facebook groups is insane.

I myself did this a while ago when I started off on a fitness trip. Very soon I was so deep down the rabbit hole that more than actually doing anything I was just trying to make sense of this maze of information hitting me from so many quarters. What I forgot during this search was setting myself realistic, achievable and enjoyable goals for me.

Even for CAT prep, you can end up spending a lot of time on forums accumulating information that might or might not directly help you prepare for the CAT. We live in an age where we can easily accumulate tons and tons of content and never really use or enjoy the same — music for instance.

So, be very aware of the point after which there are diminishing marginal returns on time invested in information gathering.

Regulate your phone usage time

A smartphone has to be the most addictive time-sink known to man. I had a seen a graphic quite a few years ago that Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter formed the Bermuda triangle of productivity.

I think they don’t even compare to what Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube can do. It starts with just one episode and then it’s almost dawn.

Do not try to limit your consumption, just remove the temptation, remove the apps from your phone.

But your brain will crave for a fix, decide on that one cheat day a month and watch whatever you want for a specified time.

Getting into monk mode

All great sportsmen speak about getting into the zone — Michael Jordan and Ayrton Senna (F1 fans or not everyone should watch the documentary Senna by Asif Kapadia) to name a few. What does it mean, this being in the zone business?

It essentially means that there is only action, the actor (not to be confused with films) is not aware that he or she is acting, he or she loses “I” consciousness.

This happens occasionally, but exceptional performers always get close to this zone, where the mind is no longer dragging them down with doubt, worry and thought, they are aware that they are acting but there is no drag.

It is not possible to reach these states all of a sudden. It starts with the practice of breathing exercises and mediation (Senna was fully into it) and also reading texts that give you the perspective that keeps you grounded.

Of all the books that I have read, the format and style of I Am That and Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Suzuki Shunryu are the ones best suited to daily reading.

Each book can be read over and over and over again. Both of them will more than test your CR skills. (I am not to be held responsible if any of you start reading the books and decide that CAT and MBA are just illusions!)

Every year I meet a lot of students with great potential and lots of plans to crack the test, sometimes it is things beyond their control that derail their dreams but most of the time it is the huge chasm between the dream and the everyday choices they make, that come in the way of their plans being realized. Every choice you make, every single day has an implication.

As I have written previously as well, most of us do not align our short-term actions to our long-term goals. We wake up only when we can feel the deadline of our long-term goal is breathing down our neck.

The idea of this post was to make you aware of the many things that go into converting a dream into a reality, especially if you are away from home and working.


  1. Shaunak Gaikwad says

    Hey Tony,
    CAT 2022 is going to be my second shot at CAT.
    I scored a 98.80%tile in CAT 2021, but could not convert any decent Bschool, with the best convert being IIM-Shillong.

    I am prepping primarily through mocks and analysis along with a job in advertising.

    Considering my profile:


    Xth- 77%
    XIIth- 68.15%
    Btech- 80%

    2x National Level Cyclist
    Black-Belt in Taekwondo

    I realised that to get a call from any CDC Bschool (Old IIMs primarily), a person with my profile would have to score an excess of 99.9%tile. Out of the 25 mocks I have given so far, I have consistently scored 97+ percentile, with only four mocks where I scored 90%tile. I have also scored a 99.9%tile in two simcats.

    By consistently scoring high and getting a sub-200 AIR, I fear that I may have developed a bit of complacency, as on certain days, I tend to procrastinate or during the analysis of a mock, I would just resolve the paper, and not look for deeper implications as to what went right/wrong. I feel this is dangerous, especially for a candidate like me having a below-par profile.

    As I am working (in Mumbai), I tend to get around 3 hours of study time post-work. Most of this time is used up in either giving a mock or analysing it. I wanted to ask you if solely focusing on mocks is enough, or if should I also be focusing on carving some time out in the morning to strengthen my prep even more.

    So to sum it up:

    1) I fear I am becoming complacent. I don’t want to. I want to maximise my prep and get the best score possible for me. How do I work on my MINDSET?

    2) Are solely solving mocks the right way to go forward? Should I also be spending time doing something apart from mocks and analysis? Is there any specific tip for a working candidate with my profile?

    3) I believe a 99.9+ is possible (Considering the sub-200 ranks in the mocks). But then again, these are just my beliefs. What would you suggest I do from now on so that I have the best chances to go beyond the 99.9%tile limit?

    Thank you Tony Sir! Your posts are really insightful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Shaunak,

      Congrats on the great percentile last year!

      Well, for my second attempt I barely prepared, since I was working only on the things I needed to improve and not the things I had a lock on (VA-RC) and this given that I was free the whole day having finished my grad.

      I suggest continuing with the Mock Solving and Analysis. It is normal to have a few ups and downs, just that them in your stride.

      Just to add some variety you can try doing the workout outlined in this — — I think you will like it and it will be an indirect way of adding some muscle.

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


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